Optimistic Christians

Should Christians be optimistic about the future of the Church? Ken Gentry couldn’t finish his answer to that question in less than 600 pages in He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology. The book in one sentence: Jesus will slowly conquer the entire world for Christianity through His church before returning physically at the end of time.

Gentry has, for the most part, measured prose and he prefers to tack his arguments down with Scripture rather than history alone. Reading this book confirmed in my mind that amillennialism is not a viable Scriptural option. There are finally only two hermeneutical positions, and if they are followed consistently, then you will either end up with an optimistic, covenantal, baby-baptizing, theonomic worldview in which nearly all Bible prophecies are already fulfilled or a pessimistic, dispensational, credo-baptizing, church-planting worldview in which there are still a number of prophetic difficulties still to be revealed in the future.

Having labored to get into the mind of the author and more importantly this system, here are the top 10 arguments for Postmillennialism in the order that I found them most persuasive.

Ten Best Arguments for Postmillennialism

  1. The parable of the mustard seed teaches gradual and exponential growth. Matt. 13:31-32
    The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.
  2. The parable of the leaven teaches gradual and exponential growth. Matt. 13:33
    The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.
  3. PM teaches a single resurrection and judgment.
    Matt. 13:30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”
    John 6:39-40 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.
  4. The natural reading of 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 has no gap between the resurrection and the end of all things.
    But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end,
  5. The natural application of Matt. 21:40-41 to the destruction of Jerusalem and its contextual nearness to Matt. 24.
    Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers? They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.
  6. The weaknesses of amillennial interpretations of OT kingdom prophecies coupled with the weaknesses of premillennial interpretations of NT resurrections.
  7. The “soon” statements in Revelation’s introduction and conclusion imply that the contents of the book would not be waiting 2,000 or more years.
    Rev. 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place;
    Rev. 1:3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.
  8. PM assumes that through His church Christ will conquer, display His glory, defeat sin, and win the war.
    Gen. 3:15 He shall bruise the serpent’s head.
    Matt. 3:2 The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
    Rev. 7:9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,
  9. It offers a natural reading of Matt. 24:34.
    Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
  10. William Carey, Jonathan Edwards, and Iain Murray all held to this position.

However, that is not the only list this book produced. Again, in order of persuasive power.

Ten Best Arguments Against Postmillennialism

  1. PM requires the Covenant of Grace which unifies the Israel of the OT with the church of the NT.
    Yet Acts 2, 2 Cor. 3, Heb. 8 demand a difference between the old covenant people of God and the new covenant people of God.
  2. PM changes the definition of Israel fluidly—sometimes they will interpret this word to mean the ethnic, OT nation and sometimes it is the church.
    e.g. PM says the word Israel means nation in Isaiah 19:24 In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth,
    But the words Judah and Jerusalem mean the church in Isaiah 2:1-4.
  3. PM cannot stop with partial preterism.
    Preterism is the teaching that most of the prophecies of Scripture are fulfilled in 70 AD when the Jews’ temple was destroyed. That means many passages that seem like they are talking about the second coming of Christ have already taken place. However, that position leads to full preterism which denies that Jesus will return at all.
  4. Numerous difficulties within the Olivet Discourse cannot fit—or only with great difficulty—into AD 70.
    24:7 nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.
    24:13 the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. Saved from what?
    24:14 Was the Great Commission completed 40 years after the cross?
    24:15 Daniel 11:31; 12:11 happened in AD 70?
    24:21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.
    24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders,
    24:27, 30, 37, 39, 44 In PM, the first two “comings” of Christ are in AD 70, and the next three are at the end of the world.
    24:30 All the tribes of the earth will mourn…
    24:30 The Son of Man coming in the clouds…
    24:31 Describes missionaries and not the second coming? 1 Thess. 4:16
    24:34 “All” means each and every, but it does not mean each and every in 24:30.
    24:36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Suddenly, the context leaps forward to the end of the world even though the same terminology is used: day, coming of the Son of Man?
    24:36-51 In PM, this lengthy section deals with the end of the world, not AD 70. Why not just stay with AD 70 like the full preterists?
  5. The Christian is called to suffer until Jesus Christ returns.
    2 Tim. 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
  6. PM finds numerous difficulties in Revelation.
    1:7 “every eye will see him… all the tribes of the earth…” To PM, this means the Jews.
    1:7; 5:6, 9, 13; 8:7; 13:8, 12; 18:3, 23 The book has a universal, worldwide scope, yet PM requires that these terms exclude most of Africa, all South America, all India, and all China. At the most, the universal terms only cover the Roman Empire, which was not even 1/3 of the world’s population at that time.
    11 Strained interpretations throughout this chapter.
    17-19 The harlot is Israel and the Bride is the Church. That interpretation places a harsh distinction between the two peoples that are necessarily unified in CT.
    19:11-21 The return of Christ in this passage has already been fulfilled.
  7. A hermeneutic that tends to see extrabiblical terms as superior to Biblical terms weakens inspiration.
    eg. Church is extra biblical in the prophets; Israel is Biblical.
  8. A tendency to gloss over false Christianity in the name of the church’s triumphs.
  9. A tendency to ignore the wartime lifestyle metaphor for Christian living.
  10. Increased affection for the present world and thus a disinterest in the next world.
    Col. 3:2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
    Tit. 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,


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3 Responses to Optimistic Christians

  1. David says:

    Partial or full preterism requires that Revelation have been written by 66, at the latest. Should the date of 95 be proved or assumed, preterism fails. Few doctrines have so much riding on external manuscript dating.

  2. Paul Schlehlein says:

    Excellent thoughts. This is a model how those of other viewpoints should interact.
    I would have put suffering as a characteristic mark of this time higher on the list (Rm. 8; 2Co. 1). A few other weaknesses to PM would be (1) it seems PM has no room for apostasy, AntiChrist and persecution in the last days (2Tm. 3:12-13). (2) The NT focus is in the 2nd coming, not the golden age (1Th. 1:9-10; 2Pt. 3). (3) Acts 1:6, odd response by Jesus if Israel has no future.
    Another possible strength for PM would be the apparent massive conversion found in John 12:31ff.

  3. Keith Call says:

    I could answer all the “ten best” arguments for Postmillennialism, but the first two are quite easy.

    Indeed, Christendom is growing as a tree with birds, but these both hold negative biblical associations. In Ezekiel 31 the great tree is likened to Assyria or Pharaoh.

    Flocking birds are associated with evil spirits.

    So what we see as worldwide Christendom, growing like a great tree with birds is replete with the doctrines of demons. Christendom is bloated, enlarged, engorged…and thoroughly apostate in these latter days. Just as dispensationalism rightly teaches.

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